The High Chaparral

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Fourth Season
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Buck protecting the old trapper from 
Tobin Boggs played by Larry D. Mann

William Conrad as China Pierce

Buck and his only ally, Culley, 
played by Vincent Van Patten

4.81   Spokes            Buck
Needing to get away temporarily from the rigors of ranch life, Buck chooses the raucous Fourth of July holiday for the time and the roughest town in the territory for the place.
Written by  Written by Ron Bishop        Directed by William Wiard

Story Line:  Soon after his arrival in Spokes, a lawless community run by tough China Pierce, Buck witnesses a saloon shootout in which Pierce's son Bud is killed by Jones, an old friendless trapper who is seriously wounded. Although it was a fair fight, cowering townspeople refuse to help Jones, so Buck goes to the man's aid and then mounts a vigil to await the inevitable explosive confrontation with Pierce.

Guest Stars: 

William Conrad 
as China Pierce

Solomon Sturges 
as Bud Pierce

E. J. Andre 
as Jones

Larry D. Mann 
as Tobin Boggs

Ollie O'Toole 
as the Cafe Owner

Walter Barnes 
as the Bartender

Tom Toner 
as the Doctor

Vincent Van Patten 
as Culley

Don Keefer 
as Opus, Telegrapher

Edgar Daniels 
as Orville, Storekeeper

James Jeter 
as Bum #1

Geoffrey Lewis 
as Bum #2


Stuart Nisbet 
as Conlin



Clint Richie
as Kansas


Character Highlights:  This is one of two trips away from the ranch for Buck in the fourth season.  The other HC characters are present only in the opening and closing scenes.  Buck makes the trip to Spokes hoping to clear the cobwebs and celebrate Independence Day but it takes a decidedly darker turn.  When he becomes the protector of an old trapper injured in a poker dispute he quietly and resolutely takes his stand because it is right, but also because he identifies with the old man who is probably not much different than Buck might be at some point.  He honors the old man as well for his nameless contribution to the Western settlement and has nothing but distain for the unprincipled town leaders willing to give the trapper up rather than oppose China Pierce.  When his only ally, a young boy questions his going to meet with Pierce, "Do you really think you ought'a, Mr. Cannon?"  Buck replies that it's not what I ought'a.  It's what I haf'ta."  William Conrad has a good performance as the rambling megalomaniac China Pierce.


Complete Episode Synopsis:  Rejecting the promise of a big blowout at the ranch for Independence Day, Buck decides to hunt up a little action for the holiday in Spokes. Just a "raw, mining town" as Buck calls it, John and Mano see it as a powder keg just needing a match. Despite their warnings, Buck rides off for a change of scenery and a good time.

Buck rides into Spokes as Culley celebrates Independence Day lighting firecrackers.

When he arrives in Spokes, the banner announcing the celebration is strung over the main street, but there isn't soul in sight, except for the stable boy, Culley. Buck asks him a few questions and finds out that the action is in the saloon. Upon entering the saloon, he asks a few more innocent questions of the bartender, who takes an instant dislike to Buck. He turns to observe a card game in progress between an old codger and a young man. The young man calls the old man, then laughs at the paltry pair of fours on the table. After the young man, Bud, displays his full house, the old man accuses him of holding cards up his sleeve. Bud draws but the older man is quicker, and in a flash, the young man is dead and the old timer is badly wounded. son.

The bystanders are horrified, unable to make a move to fetch a doctor. Buck checks Bud's sleeves, and sure enough, he finds a card there. Announcing that the room is a witness to what went on, he sends out for a doctor, and pays little attention when one of the men informs him that the dead man is China Pierce's 

China Pierce, a local legend and big talker, is at a barbecue up in the mountains, following the unwritten rules of Spokes for the celebration to wait to be carried on the evening. While reminiscing about the characters he's known to the sycophants around him, some riders appear with Bud's body. Instead of weeping or showing great remorse, he puts off any action until after the barbecue is over, curiously able to compartmentalize his personal tragedy. After the eating is finished, however, his mind turns to vengeance, and he proclaims that he will hang the killer and anyone else who stands in his way.

Buck, meanwhile, has undertaken the care of the old man he has dubbed "Jones." He has a respect for the kind of man that Jones represents and his contribution to the life that Buck enjoys, and gives him the best of care. Unfortunately, the entire town is beside itself with worry over the imminent arrival of China Pierce. The mayor and other business leaders try to convince Buck to get out of town and take the old man with him, but Buck is adamant that he won't move Jones. Even the founder of the town, Tobin Boggs, visits Buck's room in an effort to make him understand what will happen when China Pierce arrives. Buck knows that Pierce is a bully and quite possibly mad, but he refuses to sacrifice the old man to the cowardice of Spokes. Boggs becomes desperate enough to hire a couple of men to kill the old man, but Buck stops them before they can execute their plan.

Buck protecting Jones while he recuperates.

Toward sundown, China Pierce arrives in Spokes. His first stop is the saloon, and over an old bottle of whiskey, he reminisces more about the people he has known to a spellbound audience, some in rapt attention because they follow him, and some in blind fear. Finally, China calls for the old man, but his henchmen are unable to find him. Pierce swears to burn the town to the ground, and then Buck strolls into the saloon. Tension fills the air as he and Pierce verbally fence at the bar, until Pierce loses his temper. He attempts to draw, but Buck is faster, shooting Pierce in his shoulder. Pierce stares agape, unwilling to believe that he has really been shot, and that someone stood up to him. His underlings lead him away and Buck returns to his room. 

Jones, finally out of danger

A few days later, Buck is ready to leave. Jones can sit up in bed, but says little. The doctor, mystified, observes to Buck as he walks away that the old man didn't even say "thank you." Buck takes it in stride, and replies, "Why should he? He'd have done the same for me." He rides homeward, leaving the lesson for the town of Spokes.  

(Synopsis by Lisa McKenzie)

Buck, wishing Jones an easy winter


Much of this material, including the Story Line descriptions, comes from The High Chaparral Press Kit released in 1971. The Character Highlights were written by Charlotte Lehan.  The Episode Synopses were written by members of the HC Discussion Group and are attributed at the end of each one.
Especially good portrayals of these characters

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